(A Note from Crazy Egg’s Departing GM, Suneet Bhatt: This is the second guest post from our friends at Verblio, a community of content marketing experts for hire, who focus on creating you excellent blog content and then, getting people to read it. One of the biggest challenges we hear from our community is how hard it is to acquire traffic. Which is why we’ve also partnered with Verblio to give all Crazy Egg customers a privileged opportunity through the Crazy Egg app, to experiment with Verblio and find ways to drive more traffic. Enjoy the post and as always, I welcome your feedback. )
Finding a good content creator can sometimes feel like searching for a place to live—all the good ones are either taken already or are too expensive.
That’s not totally true from our experience here at Verblio. We’ve had significant amounts of experience helping agencies and businesses feel “at home” when they find and match with perfect content creator(s), priming to scale their content output dramatically.
How? Black magic, of course.
Just kidding—we’ve spent thousands of hours learning how to find, attract, and recruit A+ content creators, and we’ve reverse-engineered a way to hire consistent, high-quality writers, even for content at scale. We also like partnering with people who appreciate continual improvement—like the experts at Crazy Egg always looking to improve websites—and now we’re spilling the beans on best practices.
Read on to learn the secrets of how to find a high-quality content creator (we will keep this agnostic!), avoid wasting your time, and hit the ground running (if that kind of thing tickles your fancy).
Start By Knowing Your “Why”
First things first:
Why do you need a content creator?
This isn’t a question to discourage you from hiring one—just the opposite! It’s simply important to know why you need a content creator to begin the process.
For many, this answer will come down to one thing: it’s just what you’re supposed to do to increase conversions, put out more content, and grow your brand.
And while that’s technically true, it’s also not quite good enough—or what we mean. We want to get a bit more granular here.
Here’s what we mean:
When you know why you need help, you can communicate that better to a potential hire. You can also be more honest with yourself throughout the hiring process and stay away from the temptation to hire any old content creator.
It also helps you keep your head on straight throughout the content optimization lifecycle.
The problem is that “why” can be a lot of different things—and it will vary based on the type of business you’re in. Local businesses won’t have the same needs as an agency, and it will even vary from agency to agency.
That leaves us with a whole list of potential reasons you may need to hire someone to make your content for you (or your clients, in the agency world):
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
- Need to launch a new website
- Want to update landing/sales pages
- Update product pages
- Flesh out category pages
- Develop pillar content
- Publish consistent blog posts
- Use ebooks for lead magnets
- Engage your audience with newsletters
- Showcase expertise with a white paper
- Get the word out with press releases
- Revamp old content
- Build links
- Scale your output
- Need video engagement to increase time on site
All of these are a valid “why”—and you can go even further to connect them to other elements of your digital marketing. You may even have more than one, and that’s okay. As long as you know what the whys are, you can set the expectation for your content creator(s) and the hiring process.
Speaking of setting expectations, that brings us to the actual hiring process. You’ve ironed out your why and know how to communicate it, but now what?
What To Look For In a Content Creator
It’s time to switch gears and think about what you want to look for in a content creator—and how they can fulfill your why. Sneaky, right?
This is the section where you really need to put on a filter and get ready to wade through some potential low-quality candidates. The good ones are out there, but nothing good comes without a little effort.
That said, here’s our shortlist of what to look for in your next content creator:
- Industry Expertise: Can they write authoritatively in your niche? Look for previous work in your field, or even if they’ve helped your competitors. Digging a little deeper than simply the samples they provide will unveil the full scope of their work, too.
- Ability: Do they truly have the ability to write? You’d be surprised how many creators outsource your outsourcing. Read through their work to see if you like their style (or if it’s consistent).
- Attention to Detail: How’s their eye for mistakes? If their past work is riddled with spelling and grammar errors, they likely won’t be able to make a change just for your content.
- Portfolio: Do they have a proven body of work that’s relevant to your needs? Is it easy to understand? Keep in mind that many creators ghostwrite too.
- Testimonials: See what their past (or current) clients have to say about them. If no one will vouch for them, walk away.
- Amplification: Can your writer help you share and spread your content for maximum impact? Do they have the knowhow to get more eyeballs on a piece? Content creation should be 50% creation, 50% amplification. We’re all amplifiers these days!
- If in the interview process (even in a ghostwriting capacity), your prospective content writer describes their process and stops at publishing a piece, in most cases, it’s advisable not to hire that person. If a content creator thinks their job is complete after a piece has gone live, well, that’s someone who’s focused on creating, not on having the piece read. That’s not holistic.
- Simply having a content creator who can help brainstorm ideas on getting a piece good amplification and promotion will be a key player you’ll want on your team.
- Flexibility: Can they deliver a variety of content types, or write for a variety of niches? Many content creators have one or two specialties, but the best, like great journalists, will always be able to branch out, research other topics, and cover them well.
- Professionalism: There are layers to this one. Can they meet a deadline? Do they communicate quickly and effectively? Do they have a brand image (website, profiles) that they care about and update?
- Schedule: Can they handle the workload you want to send them? Always ask about availability. Perfect match means nothing if they don’t have time for you.
- Process: How do they build a piece of content? Do they have a set of research tools? Do they stop with just creation, or are they dedicated to editing, optimization, promotion (as discussed) and re-visiting pieces to revamp?
The sixth point above is especially important—you want someone on your team who thinks about the big picture of your content creation effort. Promotion is the other side of the content creation process that
shouldn’t cannot be ignored!
And if they can help you spread the word—all the better! That’s part of your content marketing strategy that many don’t consider, but can create a nice bonus in traffic and social sharing.
But now let’s talk about narrowing the field even further.
How To Effectively Test a Content Creator
It’s finally time to test a content creator—and not too soon! Your work is piling up, and you need help to fulfil it. But before we rush to pick the first candidate you like, it’s good to take some time to consider how to tell one creator from another.
The not-so-secret way to do this is to run a test piece.
But there’s a ton of ways to mess this up as the interviewer. The basic principle is to let your creator create, and use the results to assess their fit for your business.
The problem comes when you fail to set expectations, don’t know what to look for, or don’t value the content creator’s time.
So to help avoid these pitfalls, we’ve put together a few pointers to live by:
1. Create a uniform test.
Start by creating one test that helps you assess the elements listed in the section above. It’s important to do the same piece to assess one creator against another—how can you compare two entirely different pieces? You can’t, at least not as objectively as you need to.
Pick a topic that’s specific to your niche, and make it the test topic.
2. Keep it short and simple.
Unless you plan on churning out multiple 3,000+ word articles or 15+ minute videos, it’s best to keep a test short. You’re looking for the ability to meet criteria in this phase, not necessarily a publication-ready piece of content. It’s easier for both the creator and the tester to keep it short and simple.
3. Ask them to rewrite some headlines.
Headlines sell—and you want to go with a content creator who lives and dies by this principle. Give them some basic headlines to revamp and let them work their magic. The good ones will catch your idea and entice you want to read more.
4. Check their researching skills.
Another element to consider is how well the content creator can research, and you should consider this when selecting a test piece. The topic itself may be enough of a hurdle for researchers, but if it’s not you can still meet this requirement by asking them to include hyperlinked sources or relevant imagery.
5. When in doubt, pay for tests.
One of the biggest elements with test pieces is that you’re taking up a professional’s time and expertise. Even if you don’t use the final project, you’ll get more hits on a test piece if you’re willing to pay for it.
This has a few effects:
- The writer will put everything into it, because it’s reflective of their professional brand.
- You’ll be more judicious about vetting writers prior to testing.
You’ll also get fewer grouchy replies about “not doing free work” (which is better for everyone’s sodium levels).
Looking Forward — Some Rules of Thumb
Congratulations! You’ve hired a content creator.
You can now begin in earnest.
Except, once again, it’s not always that simple.
If you haven’t thought ahead to this stage, you may be left with a panicky “what’s next?!” in your head, which is never where you want to be.
So to avoid the last-second panic induced by hiring, your final considerations need to be farsighted.
We’ve got four rules for you to live by as you move forward:
Rule #1: Give Detailed Instruction (But Not Too Detailed)
Working with a content creator will go better for everyone if you can set expectations for everyone early on, and a great way to do that is with your project instructions.
Simple elements like desired word count, topic, due date, and even a resource or two can help launch a project quickly. If you’re missing even one of these elements, the project can drag on and end with a lackluster result.
Rule #2: Plan In Advance
Similar to providing the briefing info above, planning in advance helps everyone stay on top of their respective duties. It also helps you know your larger overall content strategy here too, so you can communicate upcoming work to your growing team.
And of course, don’t forget to include content optimization in that process with the tools in your Crazy Egg toolkit!
Rule #3: Give Constructive Edits & Feedback
It’s very tempting to trust the content creator to do all the creative work, but you need to have input in your work! Feedback and edits are the best way to do this, yet it’s surprising how often agencies don’t work with writers to improve down the editing line.
And if you’re worried about hurting your creative’s feelings—don’t be. The high quality ones know how to accept critical feedback and will implement your suggestions in future projects.
Rule #4: Have a Tracking System In Place
Last but not least, make sure you have a system in place to assign, deliver, and track work as it moves through your workflow. There are tons of tools—like Trello or Asana, or as simple as a spreadsheet—that are designed with this in mind. You can also expect content agencies (like Verblio) to help with this process.
Mine Gold in a Goldmine, Not a Ditch
The final element to consider when you’re hiring a content creator is where you’re looking. If you’re looking for gold, you might find it in some random corner of the internet—sort of like you might win the lottery. The odds just aren’t good.
And this is made doubly important by the fact that a lot of brands are missing the mark with their content and content creators these days—at least according to one recent study:
This is why we’re so careful about hiring our content creators (and why it’s worth all this hassle!).
The process above is our own, homegrown Verblio method, and we hope it helps you vet and hire your next content creator. It’s battle-tested by us, and we stand by it.
That said, you can also just take a shortcut and use our writers. We’ve already done the homework—all you have to do is have them get started!